December 10, 2015

‘Tis the Season to be breathalysed

With the festive season in full swing, many employees will be drinking more alcohol and waking up hungover for work.

But do your employees know the risk of driving or operating machinery the morning after aChristmas party?

In 2012, 1,200 people were seriously injured when a driver was over the legal alcohol limit. As a result, 280 people were killed in drink driving accidents.

Alcohol doesn’t only affect our ability to drive cars and vehicles on the road but can affect how we operate dangerous machinery and workplace transport including forklift trucks and other machinery.

Health & Safety legislation doesn’t put limits on the amount of alcohol that can be consumed but employers are required to ensure that staff members are competent to operate the machinery and equipment they use. If decision making is impaired by blood alcohol levels then it is unlikely that operators will be competent until these levels are reduced.

Drink driving legislation provides a benchmark. However, in some industries a Zero Tolerance on Alcohol in the blood stream is required to ensure safety.

What’s the law on drink driving in Britain

In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

In December 2014, the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland  reduced from 80 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood.

How does alcohol affect people and their ability to drive and work safely?

Alcohol is produced when the sugars from fruits or cereals are fermented by yeasts.

Unlike food, alcohol doesn’t need to be digested and can pass quickly and easily into the bloodstream with around 20% being absorbed immediately leading to immediate affects

After entering the bloodstream, alcohol travels very quickly to every part of the body including the brain.

Alcohol dulls parts of the brain that control how the body works.  This has an adverse effect on a person’s actions and decision making resulting in reduced levels of control.

On average, it takes the liver about one hour to break down one unit of alcohol. This can means that after a night of moderate to heavy drinking the levels of alcohol in the body could still be enough to reduce a person’s ability for clear thinking and decision making.

Your employees could be putting themselves and others in danger when driving or operating machinery.

Contrary to some myths, there is no way to speed up this process and only time will sober you up.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In the blood stream?

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol leaves the system in two ways- 10% leaves via breath, perspiration, and the urine. However, the majority of alcohol in the bloodstream, 90%, has to be metabolised (broken down in the body).

In general, everyone, regardless of age, size, or race, metabolizes alcohol at the same pace. That pace is .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) per hour.

Every hour you are not drinking, .015 of the alcohol in the body is being metabolised and disappearing.

The following website provides an indication of possible BIC levels for the number of units consumed, note these values should not be relied on for any assurance that a person may be below any legal limit and are an indication only:

If a person consumed around 20 units, equivalent to around 10 pints of beer or lager, it would take around 15 hours, after they stopped drinking, before their BAC was likely to be below the English drink driving level.

Does drinking coffee help you process alcohol faster or sober up?

No. Only time can sober you up. many people say black coffee or cold showers help them sober up, but it is not true, the body has to process the alcohol.


If you require your employees to drive or operate dangerous machinery make sure that parties are planned around shift patterns giving your employees time to reduce their Blood Alcohol Concentrations before driving or operating machinery.

If you need further advice to this subject, call our advice line or contact us.

By Phil Barker

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